All About Spike
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Spiegel Im Spiegel
By Fallowdoe

Chapter Eighteen for you all today. Just three more left, after this. You'll note a poem by macha precedes the text. It's very appropriate, I think to the piece, besides being beautiful in its own right. Please do let macha know what you thought of it. And as always, do let me know what you thought of the chapter. It's a big communication thing. :) But now, the chapter-and thanks!

--Fallowdoe

----





VAMPIRE LAMENT

by macha (macha@ntl.sympatico.ca)

for Fallowdoe's Spiegel im Spiegel



the old world time was red and black

we drained its continents of blood

when the hunt was up

we danced the plague

and we conquered time and

we gave it back

only to fire

but the old world dies

when the world was young

when the hunt was up

on a night like this

the Slayer fell

into golden eyes

we fell to dust

she was worth the dance

but the old world dies

now the world is ours

but, oh, it cools

and its spark turns ash

and it's full of fools

and we live too long

without the hope of

fire and dust

and the Slayer has

abandoned us

and we cannot die



Part Eighteen: Farewell

Buffy ran.

She didn't stop, couldn't stop. She knew that there was nothing she could do to fix this, and the raw panic of that knowledge held sway over her body.

She burst through the cemetery stones, the crumbled faces watching her and the limestone names eroding unseen as she pushed through their lonely clusters. A dead leaf floated in the air above her, and settled in her hair a moment before the wind, rushing past her, pulled it away.

The gales were growing strong. The pale, deceptive swelling of early morning light was overshadowed by clouds blowing in. And she felt a fat raindrop on her cheek as she ran, jumping over a gnarled tree root and on into the thick, tall grasses that started to grow around the trunks.

The trees were smaller here, the grasses thicker. And she just had to keep running, so she let the sapling's branches slap past her cheeks like whips, only increasing her speed as she moved.

And the rain began to fall, a soft, gentle rush, moving south into the forest from the abandoned cityscapes that lay beyond it-- the sprawling ruins and settlements she had not yet seen or known.

She couldn't hear anything behind her, but she knew Maggie must be close. And she just wanted to get away, to prevent what was coming and what she couldn't think of doing. So on she ran.

She was exhausted from her previous fight, and her lungs were tired and aching from the cold air. Her hair was soaked with rain, flowing over her shoulders and down her back in a drenching downpour.

She hardly noticed when the woods fell behind her and she entered onto the massive, rolling hills of the grasslands, stretching out into mighty sculpted shapes where wild horses ran.

All of a sudden, she was a small disturbance in the nodding grass, insignificant in its vast, silent movement. Set adrift in the dry, dancing waves of a golden ocean.

The grasses brushed against her waist, the sound of them moving in the wind as strong as the sound of the rain. It was a roaring, natural sound that filled her ears with white noise.

And there was a sudden, heavy impact to her back. She was tackled from behind, never hearing the approach. Maggie had caught up to her. The pair rolled forward on the grass, down a sharp slope in the sliding mud. When they hit bottom, the grass swallowed them, towering waist high above the ground. From the muddy earth, it was like a minature forerst sprouting over their bodies, stretching on forever.

Maggie had her by the wrists, and Buffy cried out, throwing her off with all her strength. Leaping upright, they faced each other. There was a moment of silence between them.

Maggie was drenched wet, her clothes covered in mud from the earth beneath them. Mud ran in trails against her cheeks, flowing in rivulets of the rain. Her golden eyes sparkled, but Buffy saw that they were empty, that she was fighting for her life. And it made her own eyes sting with unshed tears.

Buffy's hands trembled with cold and sadness as she whispered to her hopelessly.

"I'm sorry..."

Maggie was tiny in the agoraphobic expanse of hills behind her The grasses moved-- framing her face and flowing golden like the leafed fields of some medieval icon. She had left her coat behind her, somewhere, and her damp, grey sweater clung to her slight shoulders. A strand of hair fell across her face in a wild curl, and she stared up through it at Buffy. She looked delicate, like she might break in half.

But she didn't shake in the cold, didn't gasp with tired breaths. She was still and silent. And she held some of the pieces of the violin in her hand, that she had gripped painfully tight as she ran. Buffy could see her hands were bloody with splinters. It was a moment of paralysis, and Buffy couldn't move as she watched Maggie spring into action with preternatural speed and strength, so inappropriate for her tiny frame.

She threw the pieces with devastating speed, and they as they struck Buffy's cheek, she staggered backwards. She could feel the skin tear sharply as the ragged, broken edge of the violin's neck struck her and clattered to the ground.

And she was there, inches away in an instant, striking high to the brow. Buffy blocked, grasping Maggie's wrist as she passed and spinning on her heels to face her again.

Buffy was thrown back by the force of a sudden kick to the side. A rib cracked and sharp pain rushed up her chest. She strained to breathe, the heavy gasps soundless under the crushing noise of rain and wind.

Maggie cried out as she lunged, and Buffy seized her arms and grappled them, straining to hold her in place. She grimaced through the pain, struggling to keep her balance. But the mud was slick, and they toppled to the ground once more.

It was a scattered mass of limbs, and Buffy rolled swiftly to her left. Maggie's head darted up, and Buffy kicked her in the jaw with desperate force. Maggie fell back again, spitting blood down on the damp earth.

Buffy hesitated as she tried to pull herself up, slipping on the muddy soil and falling again. She bit her lip, her eyes grown large in their expressive pain. Her mind was resisting- refusing to accept what was happening. But as she pulled herself up again, she willed her well-used stake to fall from her sleeve into her waiting hand.

And she felt the power moving in her, and, not for the first time, didn't really want it to.

Maggie attacked with her powerful speed and well practiced timing, and Buffy parried with swift efficiency, instinct carrying her where her mind would not.

And her conciousness detatched itself from her movements. As if from afar, she watched herself, distantly, moving through the rain, struggling with her friend in the tumultuous grass. And then she realized it. When she had pulled back-- become removed and seperate, she could see how truly, painfully sad Maggie was. The throes of passionate grief filled the air in the same movements with which the passionless anger struck her face and bruised her flesh. It was viceral and real. It tore at them both in the stormy half-light. Buffy was dazzled by the brilliance of that grief, struck through by the sight of this raw and simple agony.

And she remembered, distantly, the day they'd slept in an abandoned Natural History Museum. She remembered Maggie smiling in delighted wonder at the towering dinosaur fossils, propped up in the cavernous darkness of the halls that they had walked. She had been so purely happy-- so quietly awed by the ancient frames, that Buffy had smiled, too.

In that moment, Maggie struck at her and she missed the parry, the impact to her brow sent stars into her vision. She was moments from falling, and she felt the stake fly from her hand into the distant grass.

Another kick to the side, and the broken rib screamed fire in her body, and she collapsed to the ground.

Maggie was on her in an instant, her sleight weight pressing on her chest and accentuating the pain.

And her arm was on her throat, and Buffy could not breathe. Everything slowed in her vision. Her mind cast about wildly on memories and faces.

This was it.

Maggie held one of her arms down, the other clamped firmly on her throat. Buffy let her free hand trail and flex uselessly in the mud, the stalks of grass bending under its slight pressure. The world went silent in her mind, and she couldn't hear anything.

Her nerves tingled with electric energy and her brain screamed out for breath. A strange wash of unnatural calm moved over the violence of her vision, like a heavy curtain closing.

And something brushed against her free fingers, and she grasped it. With swift instinct, she thrust her weight forward and forced the object home.

Something like relief passed through Maggie's face, as it shifted to its human form. And then it collapsed into nameless ash.

The pressure on Buffy's chest and throat instantly evaporated into nothing, and she instinctually gasped a deep breath. Her throat coated with thick dust as it fell on her face, and it filled her lungs as she gagged against it heavily. Coughing, she rolled onto her side, spitting the grey, silty substance away and trying desperately to breathe. For a moment, her mind didn't process anything besides the pain in her lungs and the immediate need to clear her throat.

But then she realized what had happened. She looked down on her muddy clothes, coated with ashen dust. She let out a small cry, and brushed at it frantically, trying to paw it away as it congealed with the rain and the earth.

She felt hot tears running down her dirty face, burning the cold flesh with their trails. How could it have happened? How when her stake was lost and gone and there was nothing else... nothing that could have done it.

But the violin stem, broken into a sharp point, fell from her lap to the earth then. She stared at it, the rain flowing through her matted hair. Her shoulders shook with heavy sobs and rasping, struggling breaths.

The titled her head up and screamed, formlessly, into the rain. She stood, her body shaking with the cold and pain and racking, sobbing gasps. She screamed again, out into the world-- primally, shattering the raindrops with the sound.

But she didn't have the energy to continue, and she looked down again at the splintered violin's neck-- Strings still hanging loosely, the scrolled head still intact.

She batted her foot out, childishly kicking the pieces further away into the grass. But the motion made her lose her balance in the mud, and she flew down to earth hard, biting her tongue as her jaw jolted with the impact.

And so she simply sat where she fell, in the pouring rain, weeping heavy sobs.

---

Buffy walked silently down the wilderness road, knee deep in rolling fog. Alone again. Nearly swallowed in the swirling grey of the misty vapor. Reduced to a feminine sillohouette, wandering the moors like a ghost in a victorian novel.

She shivered against the growing cold. The swirling patterns of mud had frozen in place on the road, a rolling, temptestuous sea made solid and unmoving. She crossed over it like the Christ.

A crow was calling, in the distance, the silence thick between the echoes of its voice. And another replied, far away, in a haunting duet.

And she moved forward, one step after the other. But her heart wasn't in it.

And she felt so much older than she had-- like she had earned the premature, hairline wrinkles just beginning to trace their progress around her eyes. A whisp of her dark hair fell across her forehead, stubbornly flying out of her long, tight braids.

And in that moment, she stepped over the swell in the hill. She saw a flatbed truck there, that had been altered-- shaped into a horsecart.

She trailed over to it with a vague sort of curiosity. The flatbed was filled by a pool of water, crusted over with ice. Shapes were strewn in pieces at the front of the contraption-the remains of the horses, from which she turned away in disgust.

Something had attacked here. She could almost feel it in the air. But there was somethign wrong... something different.

There were no human bodies. They had lived. They had all survived this to walk away.

She brushed her gloved hand against the peeling wall of the flatbed. She traced her finger across a sharp, slashing gouge in the paint and metal. A sword blade had made it. And she saw more evidence of the fight, as she cast her gaze about, and she could trace its movements like ghosts in the air.

And she whispered softly, out loud, remembering the stories of a slayer that she had been hearing. Realizing that the stories were true.

"You came here..." she said, quietly, hand pressed against the chipped metal, "You saved them..."

---

Empty, urban facades stretched up into the sky, the rooms within gutted and collapsed away. After all the days in the forest, away from people and city things, Buffy felt uncomfortable as she stepped over the cracks in the pavement. The buildings shrank close all around her.

She wandered aimlessly, not entirely certain where to go. There were others here-- travellers. Trailing along in groups through the abandoned streets, heading towards or away from the settled parts of the city. They had bags and horses and children by their sides as they journeyed to wherever they were going.

Buffy watched the beleagured, tiny clusters of people walk through the lonely wasteland, and followed them. A woman in a long, grey coat pulled a child along by the hand. A man walked with a cluster of golden retreivers, who followed him without leashes. A group of pilgrims sang a song as they walked, softly and out of tune.

She trailed off the main road to a side street, stepping over the traffic light that had crashed to ground years ago, and never been moved. There was a nest of twigs and branches in its face.

And in a clearing, beside a crumbled wall, she saw a circle of charred trash. She paused, looked at it. She could see where the fire had swelled and spread, traced black against the earth.

But she didn't see where her foot struck a blackened lighter on the ground, knocking it back under the lip of a piece of stray, burned cardboard.

---

The body lay still and dead in the alleyway, where it had fallen. Its neck was covered in dry blood from the wound. A rat ran across its ankle. The body was dead.

Its eyes snapped open.

The vampire started in shock, aware for the very first time. He was terrified.

The world wasn't like he remembered. He didn't feel cold, although he was fairly certain that he was cold. He didn't feel the asthma that had kept him from being able to run.

Bizarre details threw themsevles out at his ears, eyes, and nostrils. He couldn't filter all the new information in a way that made sense to him-- it was all a blur. The sparkling of the micah in the gravel, the sound of footfalls. The smell of the wind and the earth and the humans just outside this alley.

He could hear their hearts-- the fluttering rythms, and he didn't understand what the sound meant.

And he wanted something he couldn't comprehend-- wanted it desperatley, and he jumped to his feet, throwing his head from one side to the other, overcome by the huge amount of things he'd never noticed before, hadn't felt before-- he couldn't process it.

He staggered out of the alleyway, his muscles reacting with more force than he'd ever known, throwing him forward before he could adjust. He clung to the wall of the building, tracing its progress to the cracked front steps. He sank down on the broken concrete of a stair.

He buried his head in his hands. There was so much noise. So many hearts.

He just wanted them to stop.

---

The widower held to the back of the group of travellers. He was too old to lead, now. Too tired from all he'd lost in his life. So he followed them, and they sang the old songs-the old hymns he hadn't forgotten, and taught to everyone he met that would listen.

He wandered through the devestated streets. The group was moving to somewhere better, but in this shady, urban wilderness, nothing seemed quite right to him. It had a smell of sickness to it.

He passed by a charred circle in the ruins, where a small woman was standing, deep in thought. Her dark hair was bound into tight braids, and she looked bruised, battered, and very tired. He also thought, for a moment, that she looked rather lonely. And because he'd had the folly, as a young man, to choose to care what happened to others, he felt sorry for her as he passed by-- always clinging to the back of the crowd.

And then he saw the young man-- slight of build. The bookish sort that did so poorly in this new world. He could relate to that.

He was crouched on the stairs, head clutched in his hands. He looked like he was in pain, and his shoulders were trembling heavily.

The old man paused. The group continued without notice of his stopping. He watched the boy a moment, and sighed and turned away to go.

But it didn't seem quite right to leave him. So he turned back. The group walked up the road, and other travelers trailed past him as he approached the boy.

"Hey there, son," he said in his warm, paper-and-tobacco voice, "You needing any help?"

---

The vampire smelled the aged musk of the old man, heard his unsteady heart. He heard the scrabbling of the soles of his shoes against every grain of broken asphalt.

The figure towered like a shadow over the vampire's lowered head. And when the old man spoke, the vampire looked up. The aged figure recoiled back in shock, pulled back as prey often does.

And the vampire suddenly wasn't afraid any longer. It knew what to do.

---

Buffy stood among the ashes of some days-old conflict. She could see where the earth had been freshly burned, but didn't understand how it had happened. She could only feel the tension in the air, still hanging over everything. This had been a nest, of some kind. And she knew, somehow, in the corners of her being, that the one she had been told of had walked here. She shivered a the thought. It gave her a strange sensation.

Like walking over her own grave.

She sighed, and walked on down the road. There were fewer travellers, now. The larger groups had headed down into the heart of the city. No one spoke, and leaves danced in the wind and brushed across her back and shoulders as she walked, swirling in the updrafts.

She wondered, sadly, what Maggie would have talked about with her, as they walked down this road. But those were thoughts for the past. And she tried to leave them there, with everything else. And she continued to walk down the road.

Suddenly, a noise broke her reverie, and she darted around to look. An old man jumping back from a stairwell. Another figure darting forward. The man weakly running. The vampire giving chase.

The idle travellers, in their small clusters, stopped a moment, turned to see the spectacle. A mother clutched her child close, turning her face away.

And Buffy watched with them a moment, as the vampire lunged forward, seizing the old man where he was running, and pulling him back into the alley. And there was silence, eerie and tense.

A moment later, the crowds began to speak again. Soft mutters. Mutters of relief that it wasn't them.

And they began on their journeys once more. Nothing mattered. Not like it did, before. So Buffy did what she'd done for years, and simply followed them down the street.

But as she neared the alley, her feet planted firm on the pavement. She could hear the struggle within. This was a new fledgling. It was confused, disoriented. It was throwing the man back and forth, and hadn't killed him, yet.

And she remembered where she'd been, days ago-- what she'd heard. Sitting at the campfire, at the rest stop monestary, surrounded by trees. Maggie's violin, her singing voice filling the air. And the sound of the hushed voices, telling tales:

"It must have been a only a few minutes," the voices had said, "And the whole lot of them-- had to be twenty vampires-- the whole undead lot were dust in the wind..."

She turned into the alley.

"Hey..." she whispered. Unsure, uncertain. As if she wasn't convinced she could remember the steps of the dance.

And yet she stepped closer. She could see them now, the vampire pinning the old man against the brick wall, a smile on his distorted face.

"Hey!" she shouted, surprising herself by the confident volume in her voice. He froze in place, his head turning towards her.

And she smiled at him cooly, standing with her weight shifted on one foot, her shoulder slanted to the side. She drew her stake and raised it.

"I don't think you're going to want to do that," she said.

---

It was over in an instant. One pass, a simple feint. And there was dust.

She watched it fall to the ground. It hurt, somewhere in her, to look on it crumbling away. Because there had been so much death already.

But then, when she saw the old widower alive, trying to right himself from where he sprawled on the ground at her feet, the pain faded away to nothing.

She gave him a slight, reassuring smile as she took his hand to help him upright.

As she turned to go, he clung tightly to that hand, so that she had to face him again.

He was watching her with quiet wonder, eyes flowing with something hopeful and brilliant. Like he'd never seen anyone do what she'd done. Like he'd been waiting for this moment for a very long time.

"You're the one," he said with hushed confidence, "You're the one they talk about... are you?"

She looked at him blankly. He covered her hands in both of his, swallowing their small, white forms with his spotted, worn old skin. The kindness cut through her.

He spoke again, inspiration in his warm voice.

"Are you the Slayer...?"

And she squeezed his hand and found she couldn't meet his gaze. She smiled a closed-lipped, small smile to him as she turned to go, unable to find her voice to answer him. He clung to her hand still, softly, and her fingers trailed against his a moment before she receded back, away into the shadowy expanse of the city.

---

I can see the distant light, hear the music all surrounding,

That shatters the silence so heavy to bear,

Lifts my soul into the night, fills my heart with love abounding,

And brings me the peace we all surely will share.

--The Ashokan Farewell

---


Continued in Part Nineteen: Revelation

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